Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent Day 9

Ooh this was a fun activity! I've never done a kit like this before and feel excited that we've all learned a new skill. These were a kit in the Christmas 3 for 2 in Hobbycraft a while back. There were 2 little penguins to make which arrive in the form of some big balls of felt, a small pack of feet and wings and 2 egg shaped polystyrene pieces. I expected glue and creating a big sticky mess but no - you get 2 very long very thin needles and have to stab the fuzzy felt into the polystyrene over and over again and it kind of wedges itself in and stuck and the more you stab at it the flatter and more matted it gets and the more 'penguinny' it becomes. 
Its better if the children are not distracted by looking at other things as they stab themselves, as we found. It's also better if they don't jab the needle in and then snap it - which Elijah did within 5 minutes - having a needle each is easier than sharing one. But we were very happy with our two cute little penguins and they'll make a lovely addition to the tree :-)

Advent Day 8

A nice easy advent today for a busy Sunday. Today we went over to Manchester for the Dedication of our very cute little God son Jonah so it's not a good day to have a busy craft. So in a bundled package for day 9 were their 2013 matching Christmas jumpers! 
I love them in matching jumpers. Last year I had the same as them too. However pregnant bumps and jumpers are not a flattering look so I'm giving the Christmas jumper a year off myself and spending my time trying to find a range that have from newborn to 34 year old man so that next year the 5 of us can all be in exactly the same one. :-D

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Day 7

Awww I loved our advent today. We've just made Christmas soap and have a few all wrapped up for gifts for teachers. We have so so so many teachers we have to get things for so it's always mega important to get creative. On the odd occasion I've left it till last minute and gone out for bottles of wine I've needed an overdraft! These are sweet and were a fun activity to make. 
I found these perfectly sized little silicon molds in Lakeland. I'd been looking for some online for ages and am planning to do this activity for Holly's 10th birthday party and lots of them are trays. I love these because there are 12 individual ones so they will be be perfect to give to each girl at the party so they can have their own space with theirs. I bought tubs of clear melting soap from hobbycraft and some scents and colours from ebay.
Holly microwaved the soap till it was all runny - its really easy to chop into little bits to do. Meanwhile Elijah grated some orange and lime peel and broke up a couple of sticks of cinnamon. We added a few drops of orange colouring to the soap liquid, and a few too many drops of cinnamon and orange scent. We added the bits of fruit peel, cinnamon and a few spoons of poppy seeds. (my mother in law gave me a soap with poppy seeds in last time she was here and I love it as a shower exfoliate) Then after a good mix up - but not too much that it makes lots of air bubbles (easier when not working with enthusiastic 7 and 9 year olds) and then pour into the molds and wait for it to set... and ready!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent Day 6

Pretty paper chains! One of our lovely volunteers at work has lent me her amazing die cutter and this amazing paper chain die was amongst the goodies. A few sheets of value white copier paper and a few turns of the die cutter and these are the prettiest paper chains we've ever had at Christmas...much nicer than the expensive packs we've used before. I love that these are just white - they don't clash with the other decorations! I've had to tear the children away from these to get them in bed and have promised they can carry on ALL weekend if they like.... apart from, of course, there will be something completely different to do tomorrow! :-)

Advent Day 5

We went a little bit German for today's advent. Holly's been learning about the tradition of St Nicholas and how German children will leave a shoe out on the night of the 5th. They can put their lists inside for Father Christmas and he will collect them from the shoes and if the children have been good he may fill the shoe with goodies, like nuts, satsumas and chocolates...however the bad children will get STICKS AND TWIGS in theirs! Since our next door neighbour is from Germany we asked her more about it and she helped us out greatly (and sorted us a great delivery of walnuts, chocs and German biscuits) 
So todays activity was our craft pack to write our letters to Father Christmas. They each got a nice piece of paper and an envelope full of stickers and tags to decorate it. (and then the added bonus of squashing them into shoes instead of the normal trip to the postbox). 
If only Elijah would stop putting 'A pet dog' at the top of every single list he ever writes! I've told him Santas does NOT distribute pets but nothing will put him off! 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent Day 4

Sometimes I am amazed at how organised I am. I'm also, unfortunately, ridiculously forgetful. I'd just finished planning this years advent calender the other night and sent Joel to collect 'Christmas' from the loft. Amongst the billions of baubles, lights etc was a huge bag full of advent activities I'd collected from the dregs of the January sales last year - doh! How can I have organised it all already and then forgotten?!! How do things fall out of brains completely like that? Thus I was amazed at myself. Not entirely in a good way.
Christmas craft kits do tend to be overpriced little packs of things you could make yourself for so much cheaper - but quirky little packs when reduced to 20p after Christmas are really handy and last year there were obviously lots of them around. 

Today's advent is one of those - a very basic indeed 'Make your own crackers' kit from the John Lewis sales. So basic that there aren't even any cracking strips in it - in fact nothing to go in it but its been a couple of hours of fun making them, tying them, writing our own jokes from our best jokes book, sourcing a sweet and a toy from the party bag box that will fit inside. And voila - crackers! 

These are all made up now ready to use for something they don't know about that they will unwrap another day!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent Day 3

Finally! Its tree day!! The car has been at the garage since last Friday so this advent treat has had to keep being moved back as they keep phoning to say there is more to be fixed. We'd debated carrying a tree home from somewhere local... but I'm pregnant and think not. So today I walked up to collet the children school and we set off walking home, telling them that I didn't know if the car would be ready still. On the way home we passed a few 4x4's and they kept saying 'Ohhhh...I wish that was our car!" until we came to one closer to our house, where Joel had pulled over to wait for us, and when they clocked their Dad inside they were jumping beans all over the place and kissing the car. 
So the parcel was a bag of chocolate tree santas and the 'trip token' and off we went to choose the tree. I did not realise how difficult this would be. I am fussy about the tree, Joel is cautious about the needle dropping and the price  - the children are not supposed to care?! Well I chose a lovely tree - nice and tall, not too bushy at the bottom and sparse at the top, a blue type one so not too bright green... nice shape etc. They would not have it because it was too prickly!? It almost came to a big domestic but we finally narrowed it down to 2 trees - their choice and mine and on holding them for final decision time everyone voted for mine afterall saying it was much nicer to look at- so I was able to come home not in a bad mood. Not that I'm a control freak about it or anything. 
So they have decorated it to Christmas music after tea (and is all ready for me to move everything into the right places when they are asleep.)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Kitchen aid vs Kenwood chef

They are just so pretty.

Its a shame you would only really need one. If I owned the Great British Bake Off and needed to adorn each work station with a different colour it would bring happiness just to decide which ones looked the nicest together...but in real life I would only need one - which makes it less fun because in order to get one I would have to decide on JUST ONE COLOUR... and I have no idea which it should be! My kitchen is cream and wood so a cream one would certainly fit in nicely -but seems a bit boring. I'm quite tempted by the green...and the light blue, and bright pink. 
I've thought about this a lot... and at the end of each colour decision thought process comes the moment when you've decided which you want and then you have to face up to the reality that they are £400... and they ONLY make cakes. (well, yes and bread and meringue...but essentially - pudding) Can I really justify £400 on something that makes food essentially to make you fat? I would have to make too much cake in order to get my moneys worth. That's not a good plan. I did try to justify it on the grounds that I make a lot of buns for PTA cake sales... again... not a £400 spend. 

My sensible friend Charlie (probably the most money-wise person I know) suggested the Kenwood chef was a much better buy. Nope, not as colourful but actually does a lot more foody stuff... which should probably have the advantage really? 

Well since they are both ridiculously expensive and I don't have a spare £300-£450 its not really a decision I will ever need to make...? But no. Yesterday I was making my final decision on the Toombs family smoothie maker. This was the plan for family Christmas present. I don't want a cheap one -  it needs to crush icy fruit every morning in time for 'Smoothie Club'. Toombs 'Smoothie Club' was so much fun while it lasted. In the summer we made bags for the freezer of fruit we'd picked, grown and bought and each morning we'd pick out a bag and make with milk or orange juice. Each bag contained at least 360g of fruit so that it was at least 1/5 a day each and could be doubled with few extra bananas. We loved it until the blender (cheap one not hardcore enough to take the ice) started to produce the smell of burn. :( It wont make a smoothie any longer. Sometimes we have to chuck a few things in and endure the burn for the sake of making dinner - but it should be in the bin. 'Smoothie Club' is all off. :( (until Christmas day :) )  I had a good one in my JL basket for about £90 and also knowing that I'd have to then save up for a processor before baby no.3 arrives. So wowzers that I happened to come across a nice shiny silver Kenwood Chef with £130 off - so £169. Not only does this give a Christmas gift to Smoothie club, it also has all the super (and slightly better rated cake mixiness) K-beating talents of the Kmix, and has a chopper attachment so that Joel can make all the Jamie Oliver meals he makes on a hungry night, AND baby will get their mushed up sweet potato. Win, win, win, win!

I am just a bit excited for its arrival. I'm surprisingly happy at my decision and even feel quite smug now when I look at the colour options of the kitchenaid. I don't need to decide anymore...yet I know I'll be able to make just as good cakes...when I need to...because the rest of the time I can be making uber healthy smoothies, chopped veg for dinners and lovely organic baby food. We may not have a kitchen as pretty as Mary Berry's - but, way better, we'll be a family full of good nutrients :-) 

The hardest part is that its got to be wrapped in Christmas parcel paper on arrival for 22 more sleeps. All that Christmas baking I've got planned for advent is going to have to be with an old school bowl and wooden spoon!

Advent Day 2

The poor Christmas tree trip is put back again... I hope there are still some left by the time our car is fixed! I'm so jealous of the millions of facebook pics of peoples pretty twinkly trees. Hopefully soon! 

Today though we're cosy and home. The Christmas music is playing and dinner is in the oven. We have the big table laid out with all the Christmas card options and today's activity is writing our class cards. I love this activity. I love the importance of choosing exactly which card to choose for each friend. I remember that feeling when I was little (and I actually still do it now) but I love that Holly keeps asking for advice "Which one do you think Ava would like MOST?" (bffs get the very BEST card) and Elijah loves to write a mini essay in each one if they are either a best friend or if they sit next to him in a particular lesson.

They're not going to like the fact I'm about to interrupt their happy little writing, ticking list bliss to feed them their tea.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent Day 1

Well if there has ever been a December I have been ready for getting really stuck into celebrating advent then this one is it. The year has been a really tough one. I'm not sure why I've not been blogging through it - the past few months have been the most financially stretched ever, so for a money blog I've had plenty of material to write about. Maybe its because the finances have been so depressing and consuming that I've just not wanted to talk about them. So, in brief, we have baby no. 3 on the way and the most disastrous few months of Joel job hunting. We can cover bills at the moment (just about - and with such a minimal amount left over for food, petrol and everything else) - but as soon as maternity leave kicks in we cover only about half our bills and because of how disastrous the last few months have been we're not really holding out any hope of things improving on the job front. 
So after a tight few months of saying no to every social event, school trip, coffees and a lot of denied requests from the children we are doing advent as normal - parcels every day and lets bring a bit of joy into the house again. Our advent calendar is not as cheap as a moshi monsters one from Tesco - but its much more fun and the idea is that the parcels are full of treats and activities that we would normally fit in in December anyway  - as part of normal festive fun - so shouldn't cost extra, at least. 

2 years ago we had brown paper parcels that hung on an 'advent' tree, last year it was a basket of newspaper wrapped parcels and this year I had a load of red tissue paper left over from making giant flowers for Holly's party so this year we have a trunk of red parcels. :-)

The most difficult thing is planning out the calendar. With busy children and nights that I'm not back from work till late etc. I've had to match trips out or time consuming activities with the least busy days and speedy activities with the crazy days... and keep a really clear record of plans for each day day so that on days like today (when the trip was supposed to be to get the Christmas tree) you can do a quick switch round if you happen to have a car break down and be left with no vehicle to collect it! 

So Day 1... I got them onsies a little while ago and saved them up. Today they were all wrapped up with a tub of hot chocolate, a sandwich bag of marshmallows and our Snowman DVD. I could have just got the hot choc, marshmallows and DVD out of the cupboards today but wrapping them up makes them much more exciting - and the main thing - they're a surprise. 

Our second calendar is a stick I found on the way home from the school run the other day, painted white and hanging with envelopes of Bible verses. The children wrote these - so this is their contribution to family advent. "It is good and pleasant when God's people live together in peace" Psalm 133:1 was todays. We also have a Thank You we write and post each day into an advent house. Today Holly says Thank You for ONSIES and Elijah says Thank You for ADVENT. I love encouraging thankfulness as often as possible - it really helps when things are not going as well as you'd like them to. It reminds us that there are always things that blessing our lives even if we're a bit preoccupied looking at the difficulties. 

So each day of December I will blog what we've done. If nothing else it will really help me next year to do my planning again! 

Happy Advent! 

Funfair Party

Here's my boys funfair stye party. We had lots of fun with bright colours and fairground games.
 I used striped fabrics, garden cane painted white and signs to make stalls and painted cardboard boxes.

 I used these pop corn tubs for party bags. Inside I put some retro stickers, a party popper and balloon, a stripey paper candy bag of pick 'n' mix, a rainbow swirly lolly and a goldfish in a bag (a plastic goldfish set in a bag of clear soap.
Circus cake! This was fun to make. I used a foam ball for the top bit as we just didn't need to create
so much edible stuff.